Big Brother is Watching You

by George Lovell | | 0 comments

The Superbowl is an American football game - the biggest event on the American sports calendar brings in over 100 million viewers every year.

The elite athleticism on the field is but a trivial subplot to the half-time entertainment, advertising, and celebrity-soaked PR that takes centre stage throughout the event.

Companies paid $7 million for a single 30-second video ad to air during the Superbowl this year.

The stakes are ludicrously high - on and off the field.

In 1984, Apple paid $1 million to show a 60-second commercial - which is still regarded as one of the most effective and iconic ads in history.

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The commercial was a callback to George Orwell's infamous book, 1984 - a dystopian science fiction novel and cautionary tale, published in 1949.

Apple targeted a small but growing demographic of people that used computers in a creative, unconventional way. This, in contrast with the zombie conformists in the ad, who represented IBM - the market leader at the time. 

This idea of the one against the many is portrayed by the athlete, who launches a hammer at the big screen that thousands of people were mindlessly staring at. Her colourful clothing and evocative emotion stand out from the otherwise dark and despairing tone of the scene.

The strong and courageous female athlete escapes the guards and destroys the screen, shattering the totalitarian leader, and ultimately allowing his brainwashed followers to see the light.

Apple's slogan at the time: Think Different.

The commercial aired two days before the official launch of the Macintosh. The ad proved to be a tremendous success. Apple sold 72,000 computers in the first 100 days. This, at a time when most Americans didn't know what a personal computer was, let alone could afford one.

The launch of the Macintosh alongside this ad fired Apple on an unstoppable trajectory to the top of the computing industry, eventually leading them to become the world's most recognised brand and first trillion-dollar company.  

Some might say that the message behind the ad is ironic, given Apple's current standing as a commercialised surveilling tech giant. But at the time, it was an underdog starting a revolution to change the world for the better.

As Orwell wrote in 1984, “We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it.”

Notice how you do not once see the product in the ad itself, nor does it really relate to computers in any way, which is a testament to what a genius piece of marketing this was.

This advert was directed by Ridley Scott.

If, like me, you grew up on 2000's cartoons, you'll now understand the Futurama reference.

Other Superbowl classics you might recognise include Budweiser's Whassup, Old Spice's the man you could smell like, and Snickers' you're not you when you're hungry. Check them out here.

Thanks for reading!

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